Washington, D.C. November 15, 2017. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has put forth two amendments to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill that are important to whistleblowers.

The major amendment addresses an issue that has been the subject of previous posts, defining the term “collected proceeds” in I.R.C. section 7623(b).  The IRS and Department of Justice have taken the position whistleblowers who report criminal tax frauds, such as the numerous crimes committed by the largest Swiss banks, cannot obtain a whistleblower reward. They have argued that whistleblower rewards should not be paid on any criminal fines. Continue Reading Proposed Grassley Amendment Important for Whistleblowers

Yesterday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) delivered a floor statement before the Senate in support of the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2015 (S. 579). Grassley is a co-sponsor of this bi-partisan bill that aims to expand the independence of Inspector General (IG) offices and reiterates that in order to conduct oversight the IG should have access to all agency records.

Legislation pending in both chambers of Congress would clarify this by making clear that all records mean all records — and that inspectors general remain an important mechanism of accountability and oversight.

Watch Senator Grassley’s speech above or read the full text here.

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) held a hearing with Veterans Affairs whistleblowers, the current Acting Inspector General and Special Counsel for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to investigate claims of veteran abuse and continued agency misconduct and whistleblower retaliation at Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. Dr. Katherine Mitchell and Dr. Lisa Nee testified about the malpractice and fraud they encountered working at VA hospitals during the hearing, which was held on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

“Frankly, the malignant culture is so pervasive at the Phoenix VA in all levels of administration that there are only two reasons why an IG team would fail to substantiate bullying behavior,” said Katherine Mitchell, the doctor who blew the Continue Reading Inspector General Failed to Protect VA Whistleblowers

A report released today by Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reveals that most of the fifteen executive branch departments’ nondisclosure agreement policies violate the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.  The law requires such agreements to contain an explicit statement notifying employees the agreements do not trump an employee’s rights and obligations under the law relating to communications to Congress, reporting misconduct to an Inspector General, or any other whistleblower protections.

According to the report the Treasury Department was the only one that was able to document implementation of the anti-gag provision.  Eight departments were able to document only partial implementation, and two others were unable to demonstrate even partial compliance.  Four departments, including the Justice Department, did not to respond to Grassley’s inquiry.

Senator Grassley forwarded his report to Carolyn Lerner at the Office of Special Counsel and requested that she consider adding compliance with the anti-gag statute as a criteria for the Special Counsel’s 2302(c) Certification Program.

Senator Grassley championed the anti-gag protections that were adopted in 1988 and were included in successive annual spending bills until last year.  In November 2012, the bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act permanently codified in federal law that any violation of the anti-gag provision is a prohibited personnel practice.

In response to Sen. Grassley’s report, Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, made the following statement:

“Gag orders have a devastating impact on the public’s right to know about fraud in government.  The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act provisions must be aggressively enforced. Senator Grassley’s report is a critical first step in pushing the federal government to implement its own laws.

Federal bureaucrats want to keep their misconduct secret. Gag orders, which have a chilling effect on employees, are now illegal and any bureaucrat who attempts to have an employee sign an illegal non-disclosure agreement should be severely disciplined.”

Related links:

Report on the Implementation of Section 115(a) of the Whistleblower  Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA)

Op-ed, Let the sun shine in, by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

 

 

timesGrassley1The Washington Times reports today that  the Obama Administration is accused of using a broad interpretation of federal privacy statutes to block Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley from pursuing investigations such as “‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running scandal to the questioning of judicial nominees,” the article states.

The article details how the Department of Justice invoked the Privacy Act to  bar the Senator  from meetings that were part of the “Fast and Furious” investigation and later to refuse to answer questions to DOJ appointees in nomination hearings.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, is quoted in the article stating:

“Sen. Grassley has forged a reputation since the 1980s as being completely bipartisan on oversight — he’s held every single president accountable from Reagan to Obama. Going after Grassley [by way of the Privacy Act] is just demeaning to a guy who is known in the whistleblower community as their No. 1 advocate. It’s a real step back for oversight.”

Read the full article: Hill watchdog Grassley blocked by administration privacy claims

During the 2013 fiscal year, the Justice Department secured $3.8 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases under the False Claims Act (FCA).   This dollar amount, which is the second largest annual recovery of its type in history, brings total recoveries under the FCA since January 2009 to $ 17 billion – nearly half the total recoveries since the FCA was amended 27 years ago in 1986.  The largest annual recovery was in 2012 with nearly $5 billion recovered.

“It has been another banner year for civil fraud recoveries, but more importantly, it has been a great year for the taxpayer and for the millions of Americans, state agencies and organizations that benefit from government programs and contracts,” said Assistant Attorney General Delery.   “The $3.8 billion in federal False Claims Act recoveries in fiscal year 2013, plus another $443 million in recoveries for state Medicaid programs, restores scarce taxpayer dollars to federal and state governments.   The government’s success in these cases is also a strong deterrent to others who would misuse public funds, which means government programs designed to keep us safer, healthier and economically more prosperous can do so without the corrosive effects of fraud and false claims.”      

Continue Reading DOJ Secures Second Largest Annual Recovery from False Claims Cases in 2013

On April 24, Senate Democrats delayed a confirmation vote on Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez. Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa was concerned that Republicans would use a threatened separate hearing as a forum to attack Perez in his absence. Read more.

Senate Republicans have criticized Perez for his involvement in a deal with the city of St. Paul, MN that left a whistleblower with nothing.  Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in coordination with Issa and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, released a joint staff report about how Perez orchestrated a controversial quid pro quo with the city that prevented the Justice Department from recovering hundreds of millions of dollars back to the taxpayers, and left a whistleblower who filed the suit out in the cold.  

Here is an excerpt from the joint staff report

"In early February 2012, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez made a secret deal behind closed doors with St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Christopher Coleman and St. Paul’s outside counsel, David Lillehaug. Perez agreed to commit the Department of Justice to declining intervention in a False Claims Act qui tam complaint filed by whistleblower Fredrick Newell against the City of St. Paul, as well as a second qui tam complaint pending against the City, in exchange for the City’s commitment to withdraw its appeal in Magner v. Gallagher from the Supreme Court, an appeal involving the validity of disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act."

According to the joint staff report, this deal cost the U.S. Government the opportunity to recover as much as $200 million.

The Department of Labor’s OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. Rights afforded by these whistleblower acts include, but are not limited to, worker participation in safety and health activities, reporting a work related injury, illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes.

Read the full joint staff report here